How Does Google Translate Make Money?

How Does Google Translate Make Money

While Google keeps the revenues of Google Translate a secret, it is known that the search giant does not monetize the consumer version of the translation tool. It is free for individuals to use and there are no advertisements.

It seems Google Translate does, however, indirectly make money for Google in four primary ways: advertising, data collection, cloud and enterprise solutions, and platform integration.

In addition, all of Google’s services, products, and features benefit from Google Translate. For example, translating restaurant reviews on Google Maps allows Google to extract value from a review written in a different language.

So, why is Google Translate free? One reason is that it is an artificial intelligence (AI) product that gets better over time. The more people use the tool, the better. It learns from users to correct translation errors and improves with scale.

First up is advertisements which generate revenue when users engage with or click on them. Because Google Translate is integrated with other Google Services (e.g., Google Search, Google Ads), if a user searches in a different language or uses Google Translate to translate a webpage, Google can display targeted ads as well as the translated content.

Data collection by Google Translate helps Google in two ways. Firstly, data from user interactions (the text being translated, language preferences, usage patterns) informs Google on how to improve translation algorithms and develop new features. 

Secondly, anonymized and aggregated data is used for market research, linguistic analysis, and training machine learning models which also have extensive applications outside of translation. All data-driven insights can then be used to enhance Google’s other products and services.

Enterprise Solutions & Platform Integration

Google has several translation products as enterprise solutions, all of which have additional functionalities and some can be customized. Pricing is based on subscriptions or usage (i.e., only pay for what you use).

According to Mallika Iyer, former Head of Product, Translation AI at Google, the enterprise version of Google Translate is an enhanced adaptation of the neural machine translation (NMT) tool that individuals can use for free. 

One option for organizations is Google Cloud Translations, Translation API Basic and Translation API Advanced, which include “a number of additional features that we have built out over a period of time into that API (Application Programming Interfaces)”, Iyer told SlatorPod.

The APIs allow developers to integrate translation capabilities into their own applications, websites, or services. Some features include language detection, glossary, batch translations, formatted document translation, translation with custom or general models, and translation in 100+ language pairs. Additional customization features are available with Advanced.

Google’s latest development, Translation Hub, launched in October 2022. Translation Hub offers security and data protection for enterprises that are not ensured by the web-accessible free Google Translate or the API.

“It is intentionally a very lean workflow”, Iyer explained, giving users with translation needs the possibility to translate their content without extensive and expensive workflows. It also features a post-editing tool and quality estimation feature.

Other translation products are AutoML, a custom translation or domain-specific tool enabling more specified translations out of the box without the need for code-writing, and Media Translation API, offering “real-time audio translation directly to your content and applications”.

AI Enhancing New Google Features

In May 2022, Google announced several new features, one of which was the addition of 24 languages to Google Translate. These were the first languages added using zero-shot machine translation.

A smorgasbord of new additions was unveiled in February 2023; AI was a common theme behind the advancements. For example, a contextual translation function showing alternative term equivalents, addition of 33 languages for offline use, and interface developments allowing data input in the form of chats, voice messages, and images thanks to AI-enabled image translation using Google Lens, machine learning, and the device’s camera.

Google’s Universal Speech Model, PaLM 2, and Google Bard are all making waves in other areas of the language industry too. It’s likely Google will directly or indirectly monetize these research efforts and products in the same way as Google Translate.